Posts Tagged ‘Lou Williams’

No Timetable For Return Of Lou Williams





ATLANTA — Veteran guard Lou Williams will be on the floor Tuesday morning in Athens for the first day of training camp with the Atlanta Hawks. What he does, however, remains to be seen.

There is no concrete timetable for his return from the right ACL tear he suffered Jan. 18. The Hawks’ team physicians haven’t cleared him for full contact and Williams admitted Monday afternoon during Media Day that he has no idea when he’ll be allowed to return to full contact work.

“I would hope sooner than later,” Williams said. “I feel good at this point in the process. I guess you could say it’s just day-to-day with months worth of time [to go].”

Hawks general manager Danny Ferry declined to give specifics on the recovery process last week. Coach Mike Budenholzer did the same Monday afternoon, stressing that there will be no rushing the process for Williams, who played in just 39 games last season before getting hurt against Brooklyn and missing the remainder of the season.

“Right now we are in a rehab and evaluation mode or process so I can’t really give you a better indication of when he’ll be ready,” Budenholzer said. “But we feel like that process is going well. But when he’ll be able to play has not been determined and won’t be determined for the foreseeable future. His health and the health of any injured player will be our priority. And before he returns to play we will make sure he is 100 percent and feels great. He won’t go live five-on-five [Tuesday] but he will be on the court and participate and do some non-contact and things he’s been cleared to do. But there won’t be any five-on-five.”

The healing process varies depending on the player, of course. And with so many high-profile players around the league returning from various injuries, Williams made it clear that whatever hurdles he faces in the coming days, weeks and perhaps months, are physical and not psychological.

“I don’t think the issue I have is mental,” Williams said. “The trainers and the doctors will tell you that. The first day I could get back on the court they told me I had to slow down because I was trying to do too much. I’ve never had that issue. I guess I’m just naive to what’s going on. I feel really good about where I am. Every time they tell me to work out with a basketball I work out as if I wasn’t hurt, like I normally would if I wasn’t hurt. So I don’t think my issue is really going to be mental, it will be more what can I endure physically.”

With so many new faces on the roster, the Hawks could use Williams sooner rather than later. For the time being, though, he looks like his rehabilitation process could last well into the regular season.

Hawks, Horford Searching For Identity





ATLANTA – In each of his first six Media Days with the Atlanta Hawks, Al Horford gladly shared the spotlight with others, older teammates who understood the fluctuating dynamics of the NBA in ways Horford never will.

A lottery pick, All-Star and franchise cornerstone with the Hawks, Horford’s been a mainstay and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. But the guys he looked around the room at during his rookie season and since then are no longer around. One by one they’ve vacated the premises in various ways (trades, free agency, etc.), leaving Horford as literally the last man standing from the previous regime and era of Hawks basketball.

From Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams to Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia, some of Horford’s closest friends and colleagues in the league have moved on to new adventures. It’s a feeling Horford, the Hawks’ All-Star big man, is still trying to get used to with the seven-year switch going on at Philips Arena this season.

“It’s weird man,” Horford said Monday. “It is. It’s hard for me to believe it’s my seventh year. I started, we started with a big group of guys here and it’s hard for me to believe it’s just me from that original group of guys. But it’s new and it’s exciting, an exciting time for the Hawks.”

It’s not necessarily the fresh start Horford envisioned when the Hawks went into free agency with $34 million in cap space and hoop dreams that included luring some of the biggest names on the market to town to help usher in this new era.

When the Dwight Howards and Chris Pauls decided to go or remain elsewhere, Horford realized that the new identity the Hawks were planning on would include him wearing the tag as the face of the franchise on his own.

“I had to take a step back and look at everything,” Horford said of his initial reaction to the Hawks’ work in free agency. “Initially I was concerned. But at the end of the day, I have to trust [Hawks general manager] Danny [Ferry] and his vision and where he wants to go. So at this point I’m putting all my trust in him and working with the guys we have here and we’re going to try and make the best of it with what we have.”

No offense to Paul Millsap, Elton Brand or any of the other new veteran faces here, but this is Horford’s team — and he knows it. And no amount of conversation from Ferry and coach Mike Budenholzer stressing the “group dynamic” is going to change that fact.

“I believe so, at this point you can say that,” Horford said. “But most importantly, I’m a team player. Not one person is going to make that big of a difference. And I think we all understand that in the locker room.”

That same locker room that Horford has called home his entire NBA career will still take some getting used to, at least until the “weird” phase passes.

“It’s weird because … you create all of these relationships with different players over the years,” he said. “And whether it’s Joe Johnson, Marvin, Zaza or Josh and now they’re gone and you come back around in September and see all these new faces and it’s tough. I still have Jeff [Teague] here and Kyle [Korver] and a couple of my rookies, John Jenkins and Mike Scott are still rookies until the first game of the season, but we have something here. With Lou Williams, he’s coming along [from his injury] and I’m excited in what I’ve seen so far. We’ve been working together a couple of weeks so far here in September and I like what I’ve seen.”

He’s not the only one. Ten-year veteran Royal Ivey began his career with the Hawks and is back for his second stint, this time as a backup point guard. He understands the change in dynamics that Horford will be dealing with the season and said he’ll remind him whenever needed that this is definitely Horford’s team.

“Al is the last of the Mohicans around here,” Ivey said. “He’s a cornerstone, a veteran now. It’s basically his team with Jeff Teague and the guys they’ve brought in like Millsap. Al has to lead by example and with his voice. It’s a new regime and a different locker room. But that’s everywhere, it happens everywhere. New management, new culture and a different style. He definitely has to take the onus with this group and say, ‘listen, we’ve been here but we want to go to uncharted waters and do things a bit differently.’ He has to put that on his shoulders and carry this team.”

It won’t be easy.

The Hawks are trying to navigate the process of reconstituting the culture of a team that has amassed six straight playoff appearance and five straight winning seasons. They’re trying to fix something that wasn’t necessarily broken, yet was clearly in need of revamping.

If they succeed, they’ll do so with Horford’s face and game as their new and true identity.

Ferry: Hawks Still In Thick Of Things In Crowded Eastern Conference Race





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – With a busy offseason behind him and a what promises to be an arduous 2013-14 NBA season ahead of him, it wasn’t surprising to see Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry sporting a scruffy summer beard Thursday afternoon at Philips Arena.

Like every other shot-caller in the Eastern Conference, Ferry has to find a way to stay in the mix in the playoff chase behind the two-time defending champion Miami Heat, while also maintaining the roster and financial flexibility he worked so hard to achieve when he took over day-to-day operations of the Hawks’ basketball operation prior to the 2012 Draft.

That job is tougher now than it was this time a year ago, what with all of the jostling for position in the East. The teams at the bottom are inching closer to the middle, while some of the teams that were considered contenders have fallen off the pace a bit. The middle class remains muddled. And Ferry believes the Hawks are still very much in the thick of the crowded East after a roster rebuild in the offseason.

“I think we have to get through the beginning of the year to get a feel from our group, but we’re not just putting together new players. We have an entirely new coaching staff that is working together. That being said, the guys will work hard and compete. And we have smart coaches and they’ll put guys in positions to succeed. I expect us to be competitive. What that means as it relates to wins, losses and so on … I don’t know. The East is better, first of all. You can go through the teams and see the East has gotten more competitive, which I like.”

The Hawks have had near-wholesale changes to their basketball operation since Ferry came on board. Mike Budenholzer was hired to replace Larry Drew this summer and that was before Ferry turned the roster over for the second straight summer, the most notable move this time being the parting of the ways with Josh Smith (Detroit via free agency). Ferry traded away both Joe Johnson (Brooklyn) and Marvin Williams (Utah) in his first couple of months on the job.

Only Al Horford and Jeff Teague remain from the previous regime.

And there is that crowded East race Ferry spoke of that is sure to factor into the situation.

“Charlotte’s a better team, their coach is going to do a better job, I have a lot of respect for him, and they have added more talent. Detroit with [Brandon] Jennings and Josh [Smith], that’s a better group. They’re going to be more competitive. Milwaukee will be good. Larry [Drew] will do a nice job there. That being said, I like where we are right now. We have options going forward to continue to get better. But we have a group of guys that are going to compete. We have to continue to make good decisions, and from there I think we’ll be competitive because of the nature and the spirit of our guys.”

With Derrick Rose returning from injury in Chicago, Brooklyn’s new-look roster, the anticipated rise of younger groups in Washington, Cleveland, Toronto and Orlando, Ferry is well aware that the landscape has changed dramatically from last season to this one.

There is undoubtedly more depth in the Eastern Conference, maybe not as much as there in the Western Conference, and that means the Hawks will have to scrap and claw their way into the playoffs for a seventh straight season.

“I do think the West, having been there, they beat themselves up more getting there [to The Finals] than Miami has had to,” he said before running down the list of improved teams that will factor into the Eastern Conference race this season.  “You look at the East and the challenge is there, and if we’re going to be a team that competes and gets better every day, we’ll be there.”

Ferry mentioned guys like Horford, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and the consistent level of play they bring to the floor every night as staples for a revamped Hawks team that will conform to a system rather than freelance the way they might have in years past.  In addition to the core members of this new team having the sort of leadership qualities that have historically been critical to a team’s success, Ferry also suggested the Hawks will field a no-nonsense, blue-collar team fans in Atlanta will support vigorously as opposed to tolerating them the way many had grown accustomed before Ferry’s arrival.

Drafting well and having a sound player development program in place are other areas Ferry has focused on since taking over, upgrades and improvements that fans and the media either won’t see or simply don’t have access to.

Ferry’s focus is on the Hawks’ overall program as much as it is on putting a competitive team on the floor night after night this season. They go hand-in-hand, a factor that changes the way a team operates if that hasn’t been committed in that way before.

“I think we’re in a position where we have started to build on the values we want to work as a team,” Ferry said. “I think we have professional guys that will compete every night, and pretty good characters guys as well. With that, we want to keep flexibility as strategic option for us right now with where we are as a team. With where we are lined up, with contracts and the future we have the opportunity to still take different paths. I think we have a value system that is going to guide us along that way. But we still have the option to make changes and do things going forward that allow us to continue to build and to continue to try to get better.”

Hawks Match Bucks’ Offer To Teague



x

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Jeff Teague won’t be leaving Atlanta for Milwaukee after all.

The Hawks matched the Bucks’ four-year, $32 million offer sheet before the midnight deadline, keeping their starting point guard, who was a restricted free agent.

The Hawks had no choice but to match the offer sheet Teague signed Wednesday, a move first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Even with Teague expressing his desire to play elsewhere to Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, the Hawks had to match the offer.

They didn’t have an experienced backup that could take over for Teague if he was allowed to go to Milwaukee. Veteran combo guard Lou Williams is coming back from a season-ending knee injury. First-round Draft pick Dennis Schroder is a prospect and not ready for a starting role as a rookie. And free agent guard Devin Harris, who started games in the backcourt with Teague last season, had already agreed to a three-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks (before both sides backed out of that deal when it was discovered that Harris would need surgery on his toe and be out of action potentially through training camp).

First-year Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer will have enough of a transition to deal with after coming over from the San Antonio Spurs, trying to make that move without an experienced point guard would only have made that process more difficult.

In Teague, Budenholzer has an experienced but still relatively young (25) point guard to run his system. Teague averaged 14.6 points and a career-high 7.2 assists during the 2012-13 season, guiding the Hawks to their sixth straight playoff appearance under former Hawks — and now Bucks — coach Larry Drew.

Drew and the Bucks have a restricted point guard of their own to deal with in Brandon Jennings. There were rumblings that the Hawks and Bucks were engaged in discussions about a restricted free agent point guard swap of sorts, but those talks clearly never reached the serious enough stage for the two teams to work anything out.

While the Bucks continue to ponder what they’ll do with Jennings, the Hawks’ decision on Teague has been made. He’ll continue in his capacity as the starting point guard for the team that selected him with the 19th pick in the 2009 Draft.

Hawks Will Rebuild From Scratch





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The locals will talk about it forever.

What would the Hawks have been like with Chris Paul or Deron Williams instead of Marvin Williams? Or Rudy Gay or Brandon Roy instead of Shelden Williams or basically anyone other than Speedy Claxton?

Conference finals appearances instead of first round exits? Global recognition of a basketball brand reborn with superstar talent instead of a league laughingstock (after a 13-win season in 2004-05) and the team that can always be counted on not to come through when they should?

Hypothetical questions with no clear-cut answers make the Hawks’ past every bit as murky as their immediate future. They enter free agency this summer with only six players under contract, four Draft picks (two in each round) and approximately $33.1 million in cap space for their GM, Danny Ferry, to work with in rebuilding the roster.

The Hawks choices in the Draft and free agency have come to define the franchise over the past eight years more so than anything they have actually done on the court. They ended an eight-year playoff drought after the 2007-08 season with a core group of Joe JohnsonJosh SmithAl HorfordMike BibbyJosh ChildressMarvin WilliamsZaza PachuliaShelden Williams and Acie Law. That group kicked off a run of six straight playoff appearance that came crashing to an ugly end Friday night at Philips Arena in a Game 6 loss to the Indiana Pacers in their first round series.

It was the official end to not only their season but also an era for the Hawks, who have just three players — Horford, Lou Williams and rookie John Jenkins – under guaranteed contacts for next season. Even Hawks coach Larry Drew, who has been on staff (the last three as head coach) throughout this entire era, does not have a contract for next season.

We’ve seen the last of these Hawks as we know them, Drew acknowledged as much after the Game 6 loss.

“Even with the injuries to Zaza and Lou, we were able to juggle some things around, move people around,” Drew said. “And we stayed together. We did not fragment. We stayed together even when it got tough. A lot of people didn’t predict us to make the playoffs. No one gave us a chance, but this group hung in there. They persevered and I’m really proud of them.”

It was an honorable finish to a tumultuous season for all involved. A team loaded with three times as many pending free agents as players under guaranteed contracts, has issues that go above and beyond the professionalism required to do the job under those circumstances.

That said, Ferry is sticking to his plan. He’s going to be rebuilding basically from scratch, with nine players heading into free agency July 1.

Smith, one of the only remaining building blocks from the franchise’s last rebuild and a long-time source of division within the franchise (some folks loved the hometown kid who flashed signs of being an All-Star caliber player over the years while others loathed the enigmatic performer who clashed with his coaches and drove fans nuts with his play), going into the summer as one of the marquee names on the market.

It’s time for Smith and the Hawks to go their separate ways, amicably, of course. Everyone involved knows that it’s time for a mutual parting of the ways for the good of all involved.

Point guard Jeff Teague is a restricted free agent and while he’s shown loads of improvement since Drew took over for Woodson, there remain questions about whether or not he is best suited as the starting point guard for this team.

Ferry can make a clean break from the Hawks’ recent past, from all of the second-guessing, head-scratching and eye-rolling that has surrounded the Hawks for years. No one will vilify him for cleaning up the mess made before he arrived last summer, the one he started clean up himself by moving both Johnson and Marvin Williams in trades last summer.

It’s the uncertainty of what’s to come, however, that makes skeptical Hawks fans nervous. There will be big fish on the free agent market, guys like Los Angeles Lakers’ big man and Atlanta native Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Paul, stars capable of turning an uncertain situation around by signing their names on the dotted line.

The Hawks have the necessary resources to pursue those two, who will be first and second, in whatever order, on every free agent wish list of a team with money to spend this summer.

The summer of 2013 is the Hawks’ biggest since the summer of 2005, when Johnson (sign-and-trade) and Marvin Williams (No. 2 pick overall in the Draft) were added to the mix. That was the beginning of a painstaking rebuilding process that ultimately led to six straight playoff appearances, the second-best stretch of its kind in the Hawks’ Atlanta history.

For a franchise that has endured a recent stretch of complete insignificance during that playoff drought, followed by the past six postseason runs, a return to the non-playoff abyss is a bit frightening.

That’s what made the end of Friday night so bittersweet for Horford, who has only known the playoffs during his time with the Hawks and in the league.

“I feel for our fans,” he said. “I know they wanted us to do better. I felt like, as a team, we did about as much as we could. We had some adversity and we handled it well. We had a good season, looking at the big picture. One thing I appreciate about these guys was how they competed. Even tonight, we could’ve gone the other way. That is something I’m proud of the guys for.”

The “guys” will look a lot different next season.

In fact, Horford might be one of the only truly familiar faces around if Ferry carries out his master plan.

Same Ol’ Hawks? Maybe … Maybe Not





ATLANTA – Josh Smith and Al Horford know the routine. They know what it looks like to everyone on the outside. They’ve been at this long enough in this town to know that their doubters grow exponentially in the wake of an ugly loss or two, as is the case for the Atlanta Hawks in their first round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers.

“People love to throw dirt on us after one game,” Smith said. “It never fails.”

The Hawks struggled mightily in Indiana, getting worked over and physically whipped by a bigger and much more rugged Pacers team en route to the 0-2 deficit they carry into Game 3 Saturday night at Philips Arena.

“We tend to be at our best when people are doubting us,” Smith said. “There’s no other way around it really. It’s who we’ve been for years now. Just when you are ready to count us out, we’ll surprise you.”

The only problem is, they are not those same ol’ predictably unpredictable Hawks we’re used to. That team was dismantled last summer when new general manager Danny Ferry took over and traded Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams before he got his new business cards printed up.

The roster gumbo Hawks coach Larry Drew has had to stir to keep this team afloat this season didn’t look anything like the mismatched crew that rolled to five straight playoff appearance prior to this season with a core of Smith, Horford, Johnson, Williams and Zaza Pachulia, who played in just 52 games this season before an Achilles injury that required surgery ended his season.

That the Hawks made it six straight is a testament to Drew and his staff and the guys healthy enough to finish a tumultuous and injury-plagued regular season that also sacked Lou Williams (torn ACL) on Jan. 18, after he’d played just 39 games in his first season with his hometown team.

So no, these are not necessarily those same ol’ Hawks we’re all used to, not with nine free agents on the roster and a head coach whose contract is up this summer as well. This is a team in transition, not the young up and coming Hawks from three or four years ago..

“It’s very different, very different. There’s no question it’s totally different,” Horford said. “I think that Josh and I and even Jeff [Teague], we’ve had to deal with major adjustments this year. It even goes back to last year with me going down, the team adjusted and played well. And then this year, we’ve dealt with injuries throughout the year, Zaza, Lou and a number of other guys have missed time. We use something crazy like 40 different [starting] lineups and through everything we’ve been able to adjust. That’s one of our strengths, actually, that we’re able to play through injuries and whatever adversity comes our way.”

Horford and Smith earned their postseason stripes battling back from adversity in their first playoff series, an epic seven-game tussle with the No. 1 seed and eventual champion Boston Celtics in the first round in 2008. The Hawks got their noses bloodied in two games in Boston but rebounded at Philips Arena with two huge wins to even the series.

The home teams went on to win each of the next three games with the Celtics winning big in Game 7. But the Hawks had established themselves on a national stage. They played 33 playoff games in the three seasons that followed, taking two steps back for every three steps forward.

The Pacers present an intriguing problem for the Hawks in that they are big and physical, deep and athletic, with a mix of young talent (Paul George) and veteran leadership (David West) that makes them extremely difficult for the Hawks to counter in a series.

Still, the Hawks are not the least bit deterred by their current predicament (blame it on that experience from the Boston series six years ago).

“This is not doom and gloom at all for our group,” Drew said. “We’ve done some good things in this series. There are certainly some things we have to do better in order to get a win. But we’re coming into [Game 3] with a lot of confidence and knowing the importance of the game and we’ll come out and play our best basketball. Anything is possible in the playoffs. Home court is very important. You look around the league at the different playoff series and that point is made night after night. We know we’re in a situation where this game has tremendous importance and we know how well we have to play tomorrow and I’m expecting our guys to come out and do that.”

More importantly, they need no prompting to realize the gravity of what awaits them if they can’t hold off the Pacers on their home floor. The next team to come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a series will be the first.

“We all know what’s at stake,” Smith said. “That’s what made this postseason really special for us. We had so many new faces getting acclimated to this team and to this franchise, and that goes from the front office on down to the team. It’s a special group to have fought through the injuries and all of the drama, not knowing who was going to be here after the [February] trade deadline and all of the stuff that has comes along with it. And here we are, still right smack in the middle of this series.”

If you let these guys tell it, they’ve got the Pacers exactly where they want them to be, within reach.

“The way the first two games have gone … you know better than I do, a 2-0 series is nothing to us,” Horford said. “Game 3 is the biggest game for us. It’s going to define what will happen in this series, not anything that happened in those first two games and not anything that anyone says about us can do that. We’re still in a good position because we’re right in the middle of it like we always are.”

Hawks Lose Lou Williams For The Season


a

a
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Atlanta Hawks suffered a major blow Saturday when they learned that Lou Williams has a torn ACL in his right knee and is out for the season.

Williams suffered the injury on Friday night in the Hawks’ 94-89 loss in Brooklyn. It was a non-contact injury, much like those suffered by Derrick Rose and Iman Shumpert last April. A date for surgery has not yet been set.

The injury throws a wrinkle into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, where the Hawks are one of six teams with between 15 and 19 losses. They had a solid hold on the No. 3 seed at the start of January, but have lost seven of their last nine games and are now in serious danger of slipping down to the seven or eight spot in the next week.

Williams, signed to a three-year, $15.7 million dollar contract, was a key component coming off Atlanta’s bench, averaging 14.1 points and 3.6 assists per game. The Hawks currently rank 15th offensively, scoring just 101.2 points per 100 possessions. But they were better with Williams on the floor (102.1) than they were with him on the bench (99.9).

Williams’ injury means that rookie John Jenkins will have to step up. Jenkins is more of a shooter than a playmaker, but the Hawks do have both Jeff Teague and Devin Harris to handle the ball.

Smith, Hawks Headed For Divorce?






HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – In legal quarters they call it “irreconcilable differences,” the basis for granting dissolution in no-fault divorce states.

Neither Josh Smith nor anyone in the Atlanta Hawks’ front office is willing to publicly admit that their relationship has moved into the realm of “irretrievable,” but some of us recognize the obvious. It’s time for a clean break for both sides.

Smith was tossed out of practice Tuesday, fined and then suspended for Wednesday’s home game against the Brooklyn Nets for conduct detrimental to the team. Smith was suspended by the team earlier in his career for a similar transgression, when he lit into then-Hawks coach and current Knicks coach Mike Woodson, so his critics will surely point to the fact that he has a history of acting out this way.

Sure, he made a statement apologizing and articulating all of the right things:

“Clearly I am competitive and was frustrated by our recent losses,” Smith said in a statement released by the team. “I understand and respect the team’s actions and just want to get back on the court to do whatever is necessary to help my teammates. I apologize for letting them down and apologize to our fans for not being available for tonight’s game.”

But it still doesn’t resolve the lingering issue that has been there from the day this hastily arranged marriage between the enigmatic hometown kid and the beleaguered franchise was consummated on Draft night 2004.

Smith wasn’t supposed to last until the 17th pick that year. But his stock plummeted on the eve of the Draft based on whispers at workouts that he didn’t show up with the best attitude and energy in some places. We all remember what happened on Draft night, when ESPN analyst Jay Bilas smashed him before he could pull that Hawks hat down tight over his head.

Nearly nine years later, Smith has done plenty to prove his doubters wrong. At 27, he’s become one of the most versatile and productive power forwards in the league, a player with All-Star credentials who has never actually made an All-Star team. We could debate the reasons for that another time, say next week when he probably misses out again despite leading his team in scoring (16.5) and blocks (2.3) while also averaging 8.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists.

His production isn’t the issue. Everything else is. Instead of being a fan favorite, no player sends a more divisive shiver through the Philips Arena crowd than Smith does. The fans don’t agree with his preferred playing style and they’re not afraid to let the world know about it. Any shot of his from outside 12 feet is usually accompanied by a collective groan at the building some like to refer to as the “Highlight Factory.”

A fixture in trade rumors since his second season in the league, Smith, a free agent at season’s end, finds himself smack in the middle of those trade crosshairs once again. His representatives insist that he is not interested in forcing a trade by the Feb. 21 trade deadline. “I want to be clear that I’m not pushing a trade,” Wallace Prather told Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. “This is not a trade request or anything, but there are frustrations in Atlanta.”

Smith is never going to turn his back on his hometown. He’s never going to come out and proclaim his desire to play elsewhere. And no general manager the Hawks have employed, from Billy Knight (who drafted Smith) to Rick Sund (who refused to come up with a contract for Smith and eventually matched a $58 million offer sheet from the Memphis Grizzlies to keep him in the fold) to current boss Danny Ferry has exhibited any desire in meeting the Smith camp halfway in NBA divorce court.

The Hawks have All-Star big man Al Horford to work with, as well as standout guards in Lou Williams and Jeff Teague. They have a decision to make about the future of coach Larry Drew, whose cause Smith championed when no other Hawks player did when Woodson’s contract wasn’t renewed, as well. The Hawks can take all of the cap space they’ve accumulated and rebuild with or without Smith.

Smith is still young enough to start over somewhere else and continue to play in his prime, working as a productive piece for a playoff team in a city that doesn’t possess the inherent pitfalls of his beloved hometown.

Both sides need a fresh start. That much is obvious to us all.

Now, who has the courage to admit it by Feb. 21?

Blogtable: Shaking Up Atlanta




Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


Week 12: The bumbling Heat | Shaking up Atlanta | Rock bottom for Lakers?


Larry Drew said he’s gonna make changes with the Hawks. Ideas?

Steve Aschburner: I’m the wrong person to opine on this because I was in the building Monday night when the Hawks scored just 20 points by halftime against Chicago at United Center. Hey, the entire Atlanta team, in the second quarter, scored five more points than I did. So I’m prone, as they say, to throw the baby out with the bath water – and then slap the baby’s parents. But I’ll focus on one possible change: Josh Smith. Before the game, Drew talked about Smith being overdue for All-Star selection. But in the game, the talented but temperamental player sulked, jawed with referees and got T’d up for throwing the ball hard at ref Ken Mauer. Nice enough guy and supremely skilled, but the Hawks should not commit on a max deal to him and dare not lose him in free agency for nothing. Trade him before the Feb. 21 deadline.

Fran Blinebury: What’s he going to do — put Zaza Pachulia in the starting lineup for Al Horford, Devin Harris in for Jeff Teague and expect everything to change? Despite what Drew said, it is very much his job to coach effort, to have his players inspired and motivated every night. As soon as a coach throws up his hands and says it’s not, he’s inviting himself to be the change.

Jeff Caplan: Sign up on LinkedIn and get your resume up to snuff. Look, this team had a nice start, but it doesn’t have the pieces to make a deep playoff run. It didn’t with Joe Johnson and it doesn’t know. There’s been a sense ever since Danny Ferry took over as GM that Drew was a short-timer. Ferry’s done a great job clearing out salary and making room to add more pieces, but that process likely won’t start until the summer when Drew will likely be hitting the pavement.

Scott Howard-CooperScore more than 58 points. Change that. Assuming you mean ideas for changes with the team he is given, since that is LD’s department, not trades, there aren’t many changes to make. Tell Josh Smith to lay off the jumpers? Good luck with that conversation.

John Schuhmann: I’m not sure why he put Lou Williams back on the bench in the first place. They were having some success with a starting lineup of Jeff Teague, Williams, Kyle Korver, Josh Smith and Al Horford. Then they lost a few games in a row and Drew went away from it, even though that lineup wasn’t really the problem. Lineup change or not, I think they’re just coming back down to earth a bit. They’re not as good as they were when they were No. 3 in the East, and they’re not as bad as they’ve been over the last seven games.

Sekou SmithLarry Drew, who’s done a fine job as the Hawks’ coach, better be careful. He doesn’t have a contract beyond this season and is working under a general manager who didn’t hire him. The easiest change to make for a team with a roster full of guys on one-year or expiring deals is a coaching change. The rumors of the Hawks trading Josh Smith have been rumbling for five years. Ignore them. He’s not going anywhere. The stunner, the move that would really shake things up is if the Hawks were to consider it, would be to entertain offers for Al Horford, whose trade value would be sky-high (young and productive power forward with a reasonable contract).

Hapless Hawks Nosediving In New Year






HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The timing couldn’t be any worse.

Struggling through their ugliest stretch of the season, including Monday’s night’s horrific and his historically bad scoring effort in a loss to the Chicago Bulls, the Atlanta Hawks are set to host their former franchise player and six-time All-Star, Joe Johnson, and the surging Brooklyn Nets Wednesday night (7:30 ET, League Pass) at Philips Arena.

Losers of seven of their last nine games, the Hawks are losing their grip on what was, two weeks ago, a comfortable top-three position in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. The humiliating 97-58 loss to the Bulls has to be the low-point. The Hawks scored just five (yes, five!) points in the second quarter. It was the Hawks’ second fewest points scored in a game in the shot-clock era and punctuated their fifth straight road loss.

When your coach speaks the way Larry Drew did after the game, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Chris Vivlamore reports …

“The disturbing thing is the effort part. I shouldn’t have to come out and coach effort every single night. Effort is what you’re being paid, to bring effort every single night. Maybe it’s the chemistry right now,” Drew said. “I’m going to have to do something to kind of jump-start us again.

“Right now we’ve flatlined. Not just from a physical standpoint. Mentally we have flattened. I’ve got to find a way to resuscitate this team.”

… it’s officially time to start worrying that your 21-16 record will get flipped in the coming weeks.

This is certainly not the sort of mood the Hawks were hoping for in their welcome back game with Johnson and the Nets.

Much was made of his departure, via trade last summer, barely a week into the Danny Ferry era. Ferry was celebrated for getting rid of Johnson’s monstrous contract (as well of that of Marvin Williams in a separate deal with Utah) and freeing up the Hawks’ funds for what could potentially be a huge free agent summer of 2013.

For a while, it seemed that Drew and the frontcourt tandem of Josh Smith and All-Star Al Horford could do the unthinkable and lead the Hawks back to the top of the Eastern Conference standings without their All-Star workhorse. But that was before their current skid, where an assortment of injuries and other issues have combined to stall that effort.

Instead of plotting a course to move up the standings in the New (calendar) Year, the Hawks are struggling to stay afloat while the Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Nets and Boston Celtics are all getting back into a groove.

The Hawks looked like a borderline playoff team before the season began. Their strong early season start gave me pause and made me rethink that stance for a minute. But the first impression of this team turns out to be the lasting one.

Drew better administer CPR quickly, because the upcoming schedule doesn’t ease up. Back-to-back home and road games against the Nets are followed by home games against the San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves, a road game against Charlotte. A road game against the New York Knicks is sandwiched between home dates against the Celtics and Toronto Raptors to finish off the month.

If the Hawks don’t clean up the mess within those next eight games, the first month of the year might very well do them in!